Friday, March 6, 2009

Top 10 Cuban novels

Leonardo Padura, author of short-story collections and literary essays yet best known for his Havana Quartet of novels featuring Inspector Mario Conde, named his top 10 Cuban novels for the Guardian.

His preface:
Cuba is a country of poets. It would almost be too easy to select 10 poets or books of poetry that play a key role in the short history of Cuban literature. But there are excellent – and diverse – Cuban novelists, too few of whom are available in English translation. The 10 I've picked here will hopefully give some idea of both the country's literary tradition, and its imaginative life.
Number One on his list:
Explosion in a Cathedral (El siglo de las luces) by Alejo Carpentier (1962, trans. John Sturrock)

I am convinced that this is the highpoint of the Cuban novel, the perfect fiction and supreme expression of stylistic and conceptual ambition in narrative prose. In this account of the impact of the French Revolution in the Caribbean, the theme is the tragic destiny that awaits all revolutions: the failure of their grand aims and the perversion of their beautiful ideals.
Read about all ten novels on Padura's list.

--Marshal Zeringue